Any players who are/were a concertizing soloist on more than one instrument?

April 22, 2020, 1:44 AM · Has there ever been or are there any classical soloists who have a dual career - they're known for their solo work on more than one instrument at a professional level - i.e. concert dates, recording contracts?

Sergei Nakariakov concertizes on trumpet and flugelhorn, Maurice Andre performed on various members of the trumpet family but what I'm thinking of are different instrument families - say violin and piano, piano and flute, whatever.

Replies (34)

Edited: April 22, 2020, 1:50 AM · Julia Fischer, violin and piano.

Of course there are a number of of violin/viola soloists, most notably Pinchas Zukerman, but that's two similar instruments.

April 22, 2020, 2:11 AM · Rostropovich often accompanied his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, on piano but I doubt he ever performed solo.
Edited: April 23, 2020, 2:28 AM · Jean Harvey (who I think taught violin at RCM a long time ago) was very accomplished on both violin and piano. I think she performed at the BBC Proms as soloist on both instruments.

Edit to say it was Bruch as violinist and Litolff as pianist, in the same concert.

Edited: April 22, 2020, 3:11 AM · Back in the 1940s, Ruth Gipps performed as a soloist with professional orchestras on both oboe and piano -- though I believe most of her solo appearances on both instruments were as a stand-in for absent soloists, as she was regularly an oboist in the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Unfortunately a hand injury ended her performing career on both instruments at age 33.
April 22, 2020, 10:53 AM · In the non-classical genres there are plenty of people that are both good singers and instrumentalists.
April 22, 2020, 11:09 AM · Thanks to Andrew, I've just read up on Ruth Gipps. The reason I had heard of her, that she was the regular conductor for an amateur orchestra in either West London or Eastbourne or both (I forget where - I thought it was West London near where I worked, but my parents retired to near Eastbourne, so I am confused) wasn't found worthy of mention in anything I have now read about her.

Enescu was said to have better technique on the piano than Schnabel, so he must have performed on that sometimes, though his most famous performance on the piano is the subject of a humorous anecdote: .

Of course, JSB, FJH and WAM were proficient performers on more than one class of instrument.

Edited: April 22, 2020, 11:23 AM · When I saw the title first thoughts were Julia Fischer and Zukerman. However more thinking brought up the thought of Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. I don't know if he actively concertized, but he is at least proficient on piano and was trained as a cellist (his YouTube videos are great)
Edited: April 22, 2020, 12:41 PM · @John - I think I can resolve some of your uncertainties. When I knew her in the 1980's Ruth Gipps was the prime mover and conductor of the London Repertoire Orchestra for amateurs and music students that rehearsed twice weekly in Clerkenwell. Most of our concerts took place in the RCM, later the Guildhall School. Her retirement home was not far from Eastbourne. For several years I was the orchestral chairman (a purely constitutional post!) and also played in her scratch professional orchestra, the Chanticleer which played some sparsely attended concerts in the QEH. She was certainly multi-talented, now getting some measure of her proper deserts as a composer although the concert of her works that the Chanticleer played for her 60th birthday celebration was a bit of a hall-emptier!
Edited: April 22, 2020, 12:13 PM · To be fair, I don't think Julia Fischer is a "concertizing soloist" on the piano. She would not be engaged as a piano soloist if she were not "Julia Fischer, violinist".

I do think she is quite good on the piano by "second-instrument" standard.

April 22, 2020, 12:48 PM · Most trumpeters have to play flugel to some degree especially those playing in jazz or orchestral settings, and have a fleet of instruments they use:

Bb piston
C piston
C rotary
D/Eb piston
Bb/A piccolo rotary
Bb flugelhorn

Then, depending on their specializations, they may also have:
low range trumpets in F, G
baroque trumpets
slide trumpet

April 22, 2020, 3:02 PM · I've heard that Rostropovich occasionally played a Mozart piano concerto or two in concerts in Russia. This would of course have been many years ago. He was also known as a conductor, as many soloists have been at some time or other.

I would suggest that conducting at a high level be classed alongside playing a solo instrument, because the conductor is in effect "playing" the biggest and most complex instrument of them all - the orchestra - which requires as much study and application as playing a solo concerto, if not more.

April 22, 2020, 3:51 PM · Julia Fischer always comes up in these discussions. And yeah what she's accomplished is pretty amazing. Still she's a bit of a "one-hit wonder" since the only thing she has ever really performed on the piano is the Grieg PC.
April 22, 2020, 4:00 PM · Harold Bauer started as a violinist, and was told to switch because he had a nice profile.

Marcella Sembrich once gave a recital where she followed a Chopin Mazurka with a DeBeriot concerto (I know,but still...) and then did an aria from La Sonnambula as an encore.

Most conductors play some piano, but only a handful play like pianists.

Fritz Kreisler and Heifetz were decent pianists, as was Milstein (supposedly). No concertizing, though.

Maybe the most prominent case was Enescu. There is a famous story that he was about to go onstage in Paris to accompany a violin student in his debut, when Cortot stopped by to chat. Show time arrived, but Enescu invited Cortot on to turn pages so they could finish the conversation at intermission. The reviewer highlighted the page turner who should have been playing piano, working for a pianist who should have been playing violin— all in the service of a violinist who should have been turning pages.

April 22, 2020, 7:55 PM · Fritz Kreisler comes to mind. He actually did a little concert work and there a very few recordings of his performances. His pianist contemporaries all agreed that he played piano like a professional pianist, not a violinist who also knew piano. At least one professional pianist of the time even commented that he played better than they did, Paderewski I believe. But Kreisler was an exceptional talent by any standard and even he didn’t have a full career as a solo pianist at all.
April 22, 2020, 7:59 PM · No we're not counting conducting!! Come on now Jeewon. :)
April 22, 2020, 9:31 PM · You do have some athletes who have done more than one thing. Danny Ainge and John Elway were both drafted to play baseball. There are several who carved out careers in pro basketball and baseball. Baseball was not Jackie Robinson’s best sport. And more recently, you have Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders.
Edited: April 23, 2020, 2:30 AM · Boy has this thread lost itself! The following don't count: conductors, Ruth Gipps (sadly), soloists who in their youth were good on another instrument, orchestral players who double on other instruments, violinist/violists, occasional pianists and (especially) sports people. But there's an interesting book called Why Michael Jordan Couldn't Hit.
April 23, 2020, 3:14 AM · If we're casting the net wider to include sport, Nigel Mansell won F1 and Indycar championships in consecutive years. As a sideline, he played golf in the Australian Open one year, though didn't make the cut.

There is a British athlete, Rebecca Romero, who was an olympian in both rowing and cycling winning medals (2004 Silver rowing; 2008 Gold cycling) in both.

Edited: April 23, 2020, 7:00 AM · What about the NASCAR guys who also drive those stupid little pickup trucks around ... Craftsman Series or whatever they call it now. Or the miler who also runs the 1500? Or the performing violinist who's also a violin teacher for actual money?
Edited: April 23, 2020, 9:52 AM · Probably the best example of this is Franz Schmidt . He was rather talented. He played piano professionally as a young teen. Attended the Vienna Conservatory, where his teacher told him he could never be a concert pianist with such a pedestrian name. So he switched instruments to cello, and studied composition, where he was the last student ever taken by Anton Bruckner.

Schmidt wrote four symphonies, an opera (Notre Dame), and several chamber works. He never made it as a concert pianist, but auditioned and won principal cellist for the Vienna Opera and Philharmonic under Gustav Mahler. But he did often accompany Arnold Rose, and in one concert with the Rose quartet he played piano for the Trout quartet and then cello in the string quintet.

April 23, 2020, 11:18 AM · OP, What do you mean by "*concertizing soloist* on more than one instrument"?

Judging from the comments, it appears to mean anybody who can play more than one instrument at whatever level.....

April 23, 2020, 11:26 AM · Carlos Salzedo was a harpist, pianist, and composer. I had heard of him and his music when I studied harp (briefly) as a teenager with a student of his.

Very interesting biography on Wikipedia:

April 23, 2020, 11:35 PM · ----Mozart, Piano and Violin, and later, Viola, which isn't different enough from violin to count. I am neither famous, or that good, but once in a concert, I sang the Schubert Forelle song immediately before playing viola in the Trout quintet.
April 24, 2020, 10:52 AM · Nothing to contribute to the actual question, but I'm amazed that none of you talking about sports has mentioned Lolo Jones or Lauryn Wlliams! (a lot of sprinters seem to moonlight as bobsledders)
Edited: April 25, 2020, 11:43 PM ·
David Zhang
April 23, 2020, 11:18 AM · OP, What do you mean by "*concertizing soloist* on more than one instrument"?
Judging from the comments, it appears to mean anybody who can play more than one instrument at whatever level.

I don't control what others reply - their replies don't alter what I meant. I thought I made it reasonably clear what I meant - someone who has:

a dual career - they're known for their solo work on more than one instrument at a professional level - i.e. concert dates, recording contracts

I.e. - Jascha Heifetz performing the such and such violin concerto with the so and so national orchestra this week, next week performing the such and such piano concerto with the so and so philharmonic. Or even high-profile concertizing solo careers on different instruments at different times in their lives.

So far the answer appears to be "no". I know classical people can be persnickity and prejudicial. Maybe classical audiences won't accept a soloist not being devoted to a particular instrument?

Or is it really impossible for someone to play the expected literature at an acceptable level on more than one instrument?

April 26, 2020, 12:18 AM · Fritz Kreisler is the only person I can think of that meets your criteria. He had an exclusive recording contract for piano with Ampico and RCA also did a few recordings of his piano work after that. I believe he also played piano on some recordings with his brother. He’s not known for public performances on piano but well known for playing privately with the best pianists in the world of his day. During his time he was better known for piano than he is now, mostly because not as many recordings of his piano performances survive I think.
May 20, 2020, 11:20 AM · If you're talking about sport, there's Ian Botham, who played both cricket (for England) and football (For Scunthorpe) professionally, and Eric Liddell, olympic champion athlete and Scottish National Rugby player (neither professional, I know, but that sort of level). And of course Vanessa and her combination of fiddling and Olympic skiing. I expect tennis and table tennis are too similar, but Fred Perry was world champion in both (in fact, he took up tennis because he got bored with just being world ping pong champion).
May 20, 2020, 1:44 PM · Phil Collins sings and plays the piano and drums. I think he acted in a couple of movies too.
Edited: May 20, 2020, 6:04 PM · Scott, if you go back beyond the modern and Romantic eras, there are SEVERAL who excelled and performed on more than one class of instrument. J S Bach surely could perform everything he wrote for either violin or keyboard or organ (or maybe cello also), and probably did perform some of it. Haydn was certainly employed in a soloist capacity on both violin and various keyboard instruments - and Mozart has already been mentioned. I'm sure there are others.
May 20, 2020, 7:48 PM · One of the more astonishing doubles in sporting history would be Simen Agdestein, who at his peak was ranked 12th in the world at chess while he was also actively playing professional soccer and considered a rising star on the Norwegian national team. Interestingly, when an injury ended his soccer career prematurely at the age of 24, his chess rating took a nosedive (probably for mental health reasons) and never recovered. He later went on to coach current world chess champion Magnus Carlson.
May 21, 2020, 9:27 PM · "I don't control what others reply - their replies don't alter what I meant. I thought I made it reasonably clear what I meant - someone who has:

a dual career - they're known for their solo work on more than one instrument at a professional level - i.e. concert dates, recording contracts"

The answer, of course, is NO. Most people have trouble maintaining a solo career on one instrument.

People don't care about the questions....they just want to hear themselves talk, which is just fine :)

May 22, 2020, 11:57 AM · @David, I disagree that the answer is No. There aren't any current artists that meet Scott's criteria, but Fritz Kreisler did in his day. Of course he's known as one of the best violin soloists in history, and as an outstanding composer, but he also did have a recording contract for piano with Ampico, and was negotiating for one with RCA as well, and he played piano on several recordings for other artists. He was known to play with the best pianists in the world, all of whom have said he was their equal on the piano.
May 22, 2020, 12:32 PM · Sting plays bass (electric and upright), guitar, and sings. Grace Kelly (the saxophonist) also sings. As did the trumpeter, Chet Baker.
May 22, 2020, 8:14 PM · I didn't read the whole thread but I didn't notice any mention Alma Deutscher. I saw her perform her own violin and piano concertos. Very good.

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